The Hong Kong Monetary Authority will spend HK$17 million to establish an electronic-bill payment system in the city in the second half of next year.
The authority also is studying an electronic cheques transfer system and a more advanced mobile-phone payment platform that could be introduced in 2014. Costs of implementing the two alternatives are still being worked out.
"The HKMA is not intending to compete with the current retail payment systems run by banks, but the HKMA platform can combine with the current systems," said Peter Pang, deputy chief executive of the HKMA, the city's de facto central bank.
He said the HKMA had the support of more than 10 banks that are interested in working with it "to establish a versatile platform for mobile, internet and electronic retail payments in Hong Kong".
Pang believes Hong Kong customers will like the idea, given that internet and mobile-phone banking has increased substantially in recent years.
At the end of last year, the number of electronic banking (e-banking) accounts in Hong Kong stood at 7.6 million, up from 1.6 million in 2002.
The average value of monthly transactions by individuals via e-banking was HK$413 billion in the second half of last year, while corporate use averages HK$4.01 trillion a month.
The number of mobile banking users in Hong Kong totalled 6.9 million at the end of last year, compared with 1 million at the end of 2008.
The concept also has taken off elsewhere. For instance, Australia handled 27 million electronic transactions in May last year, double the number five years ago, and 90 per cent of Saudi Arabia's bill payments were processed electronically last year.
The HKMA's new electronic payment system will allow businesses and individuals to receive and pay bills over the internet through a single platform. This includes electricity and gas bills and estate management fees as well as large payments between companies.
It will be able to handle Hong Kong dollar, yuan and US dollar transfers in the city as well as cross-border payments in yuan for Hong Kong people who need to pay bills on the mainland. Pang said the cross-border bill payment would involve small transfers that would not breach the mainland's capital controls regulations.
The new platform would be secure and provided customers with a choice, "but they will not be forced to use the electronic or mobile platform", he said.
"Those who like to receive the traditional paper bills or paper cheque books can continue to do so," Pang added.